The 80-20 “rule”, sometimes known as the Pareto principle, offers a perspective on setting priorities. It says “roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes”.
Here are some examples of this “rule” (but let me emphasize “roughly”):
- 80% of a company’s sales come from 20% of its products
- 80% of your Facebook engagement (likes, shares) comes from 20% of your posts
- 20% of the people you know cause most of your life’s satisfaction
- 80% of your personal results come from 20% of your efforts
It is a powerful time and resource management concept and that’s what I want to explore. How do you set priorities for your life? How do you fill your 168 hours per week? How do you spend your money? Start by considering your Purpose, Vision and Goals. Let this guide you toward the 20% of the tasks and people to focus on. Make the hard choices. Be deliberate. Consider the long view.
Look at your to-do list or meetings or budget and ask if there are ways to eliminate some items based on this thinking? Reflect on the key things that will truly make a difference. Be honest with yourself. Make the choice to say “no” to the things that aren’t essential/purposeful/strategic. Make the choice to say “yes” even if they feel difficult/stressful/new. Mark them as important on your to-do list. Review the Vision for your life and career and guide your way toward it with intentionality. Take action.
I am not a natural story teller, someone who paints a vivid picture and goes into details that captures your imagination. I am more of a “get to the point” person. I like to read short articles rather than a book. I like models. I learned to write one-page documents that offer a conclusion in the first paragraph rather than at the end of a multi-page report. This blog is an example; the title “250 Words” is based on the fact that the average adult can read about 250 words in one minute. I will not waste your time.
Learning to talk succinctly starts with a mental focus, choosing the objective and style of the communication. Are you trying to entertain, inform or influence?
Here are some communication tips:
- Pictures tell a thousand words. Models and diagrams take time to develop but allow the observer to understand information or a concept in a new way. Analogies can be helpful.
- Share the point of your communication as the first sentence rather than the “punchline” at the end of several minutes. It helps to know where the communication is going.
- Know the few key “bullet points”. Check that the listener is listening; pause from time-to-time.
- One-point lessons are a visual way to communicate complex topics at work. They are usually a combination of words and pictures on one page.
How do you communicate? Is it the most effective way? If story telling is your choice, click here to read more.
I love to meet and talk to new people, especially over coffee or a meal in a 1:1 setting. I make it an informal goal to meet 1 or 2 new people every week. I’m frequently surprised how a short conversation uncovers common interests, collaboration opportunities and new friendships. This blog is to focus on the process of introductions though.
Focus. Get your head “in the game”. Why are you meeting with this person? Do you have an objective? Is it friendship, collaboration or a request for help? What did you learn through “homework” (consider LinkedIn).
Greeting. Shake their hand. Look them in the eye. Intend to remember their name.
Ask an opening question and get the other person started, e.g. “tell me a little about yourself”. Active listening is required to discover commonality, strengths and interests.
Avoid the superficial. Work history is OK but consider seeking deeper insights and ask questions such as:
- What is your purpose or passion?
- What gets you out of bed each day?
- What makes you unique?
- What makes you laugh or cry?
Now it’s your turn. Consider an elevator speech or TMAY. Know the few points you want to mention. Don’t talk for 5 minutes straight; offer pauses for the other to ask questions. Focus on who you are not just what you do. It’s so easy to get caught up in our life roles.
Meeting new people is sometimes uncomfortable but with preparation and practice it will eventually come naturally.
Synonyms: self-assurance, self-reliance, belief in oneself, positiveness, assertiveness, self-possession, nerve, poise, presence of mind, level-headedness, cool headedness, firmness, courage, boldness, fortitude.
Confidence is the feeling of self-assurance that arises when you are aware of your abilities. It is a powerful feeling because it steadies us as we take on life’s challenges.
Confidence emerges from preparation, experience and successes. It is the outcome of mastery of hard (repair a car, artistic painting) or soft skills (influencing, mentoring) and demonstrating them again and again. You trust yourself because you’ve practiced and have seen that you can accomplish something. You may be confident in solving complex problems at work, dealing with the kids or working around the house. It is the result of discipline and effort.
Confidence is visible. You speak with authority. You look calm. It’s apparent in the tone of your voice. You hold your head up and make eye contact, helping with first impressions.
False confidence may result from ignorance (not knowing that you don’t know something). Being overconfident may cause you to skip the preparation step. Sometimes you have to “fake it until you make it.” You may be calm on the outside and shaking on the inside.
Confidence is related to courage because it removes fear. Confidence is trusting in yourself and is a character strength. It allows you to extend yourself enough to grow but not get in over your head. You don’t care about being evaluated. Confidence can be cultivated.
We are bombarded with things to which we could direct our attention. The phone rings or a text arrives, and we divert our attention from our work or friends. We are reading something on the web and without realizing it, start shopping because an ad catches our attention. We are talking to someone we love and then one of the kids does something and we lose focus. It happens in an instant. It may be insignificant or a loss of productivity or just plain disrespectful!
Many people laughingly say they have ADD; some are even proud of it. It seems to be part of our culture. I believe attention management is as important as time management. It starts with a choice to learn new habits and then takes practice.
Turn off your email or cell phone notifications. Put your phone away or silence it while talking to someone. Do your most important work in a place with less distractions. Be conscious of your thoughts and watch how they shift. Bring your thoughts back to your intended focus.
Attention is focus. Attention is sticking with the conversation until it runs its course. Attention is getting the job done. Attention involves all of our senses. You have to want it. Make it a choice to practice. Be available attentively; it improves relationships. Intentionally single-task; it improves productivity. Let Purpose, Values and intentional priorities guide your choices. Where is your attention going right now?
Do you see the forest or the trees; the big picture or the details?
Your perspective on life matters and it is a choice. The big picture and the details are both important. The micro focuses attention on the details. The macro lets you imagine the endpoint of a favorite Goal. The micro focuses on the countless tasks to get done and the stresses of life to be resolved. The macro let’s you see that “life is good” and that you are blessed.
I’ve noticed that I can have a great day even with many problems. Something happens that completely changes the tone of the day. Someone thanks you for your sacrifice of time or attention. A goal gets accomplished. A big idea is uncovered. You make a new friend. These and countless other things become the building blocks to the Vision you have for your life, your family or work. The Vision and Goals are the macro; the daily action steps are the micro. The big picture lets you see your blessings with your problems. Acknowledging progress in the larger context is the choice to be made.
How do you change perspective? You stop and simply refocus to a new choice of perspective. Be aware of your thoughts and underlying beliefs. Transition from living unconsciously to being present. For me, the time for a “sacred pause” is simply enough.
Relationships ebb and flow over time. They seem to grow closer and apart in waves, shifting from day-to-day and week-to-week. I observe that there are several continuing factors that influence the quality of (married) relationships. What are these “currencies”?
- Influence. This is about who makes the decisions. Are goals set together? Are decisions made on joint principles or made unilaterally?
- Disclosure. Willingness to share feelings. Do you withhold secrets or concerns?
- Effort. This is about pulling your “fair share” of the household load. Perception and reality are different.
- Money. This is about security and long-term needs and wants. Do you have an emergency fund? Is money pooled toward joint long-term goals. Do you discuss spending habits?
- Time. This is about doing what you want/need to do alone or together. Are we spending quality time with each other? Are you overscheduled and unavailable? Sleep is a special case, especially for those with young children.
By being conscious of these currencies you can make better personal choices. More importantly, these are the essential topics on which to have conversations and set boundaries, personally and as a couple. You may think that there is balance and “fairness” but you never know until you talk about it deeply and ask for feedback. The balance can be difficult because our priorities and personal values are different and shift.
I feel most of us believe that relationships should be 50/50. That can be a toxic belief. What if you substituted 100/0? Life is complicated and relationships can be too; make the investment to explore differences.
We’ve all had an experience where we’re calm one moment then agitated or quarreling, even fighting the next. We quarrel about money, how to raise our kids, priorities, politics and more. Most topics deserve polite and respectful engagement, but something triggers us. There are degrees of reaction. We move from a thought to an emotion to action (hopefully only words) in a split second, usually without thinking.
It starts with values and beliefs. Your triggers, especially the dysfunctional ones, are worth exploring. You can sometimes trace these back to an early time in your life. Consider the following steps; an example is in italics:
- Identify the trigger. It may be a person, event, thing or word. My boss critiques (rejects) my proposal or idea.
- Understand the behavior. How do you react? I immediately feel defensive.
- Uncover the underlying value. What personal need is not being met? What beliefs do I have? Respect; I have to be heard.
- Explore memories. What is you earliest memory? What does it teach us? My father was overly critical of my homework and never praised me for it doing well.
Values are a powerful force in our lives and compel us to action. Respect, family, honesty are examples. Some triggers are OK, e.g. crying with a sad movie. It’s those dysfunctional triggers that need reflection.
Take a breath, count to 10 or find some way to engage your brain to respond rather than react. Then T.H.I.N.K. before you speak.
We make hundreds of decisions per day. Most are routine and simple such as what clothes do I wear or what to eat for dinner. A few are more critical such as what car do I buy or what school should my child attend. These critical decisions require deliberation and a process, particularly if other people are participating in the decision making.
Here is a decision-making process:
- Clarify the decision to be made by describing/writing the problem or issue.
- List the alternatives; option development is as important as option analysis.
- List the decision criteria or principles.
- Evaluate each decision against the criteria. Set up a simple matrix on paper.
- Implement and monitor the decision. Did the outcome achieve expectations?
I want to focus on the 3rd bullet point, i.e. listing the criteria or principles. Using a car purchase as an example, the criteria might be: initial purchase cost, maintenance costs, gas mileage and safety features. You would simply list your alternatives and then assess each alternative against these criteria. Of course, some criteria might carry more weight and be required vs. optional.
This type of decision-making is particularly helpful in large, diverse groups. Instead of advocating (arguing) for a particular decision, identify and then keep the focus on the key principles that apply. Let the criteria guide the evaluation to build a consensus. Choices have consequences so keep the long-term outcomes in mind when evaluating.
You can read more about decision making at this link.
“Knowing yourself deeply” is a key theme of this blog, mostly in the context of discovering purpose. What do you do with this knowledge in everyday life? The picture above shows a kitten that thinks it’s a lion. This poor self-assessment of reality may work some of the time but likely will cause problems in communications and relationships.
Self-awareness is about knowing your strengths AND weaknesses. It’s about how you present yourself in a simple conversation, e.g. choice and tone of words, amount of words and body language. It’s about being in touch with your emotions (and triggers) and understanding how this affects your decisions and interactions.
Self-awareness points the way to a valuing of differences and is therefore particularly important in mentoring. It is a prerequisite to suspending personal biases and judgement and allows empathy to prevail. For example, I am disciplined, a morning person, goal-oriented, sometimes assertive and in a loving relationship. I know that discipline is not a common trait. I try not to assume that others have it and wonder what strengths they might have instead.
Personal growth requires asking for feedback which validates your assumptions. It lets you check if your strengths offset your weaknesses. This model by Marquita Herald shares some elements of self-awareness:
- Self-concept: how you perceive yourself.
- Self-regulation: taking responsibility for your choices.
- Self-development: developing character and abilities.
- Self-identity: recognition of one’s potential.
- Personal values: reflect needs and wants.
There are levels and types of self-awareness which if interested, you can read about at this link. Try this self-awareness quiz too.